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Norwegians Must Be Asking: Why Obama for Peace Prize?

5 years ago
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Norway, it seems, has gotten as good as it gave. After the six Norwegians on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded the coveted honor to a man who clearly and self-admittedly did not deserve it, Norwegians themselves have become upset with the man and, by inference, their decision to honor him in this singular fashion.

Two public opinion polls revealed dissatisfaction with Obama's decision to skip the traditional Nobel events, including a "Save the Children" concert in which the only presence of the U.S. president was a cardboard cutout brought in a kind of good-natured rebuke. "Norwegians's Verdict: Obama Is Impolite" blared the headline in one Oslo daily newspaper.

A little bit of background research might have alerted the Nobel Committee to Obama's annoying tendency toward expediency and away from commitment to principle. Instead, the Nobel Committee mimicked America's voters when they rushed to select Obama. Both votes, by the American public and the Nobel Committee, struck me as more appropriately viewed as a rebuke to former President Bush than as a rah-rah for Obama.

The Nobel Committee rushed into bed with Obama. When the alarm bell rang the next morning, six Norwegians found themselves sleeping next to someone quite apart from the person they had viewed through gin-altered glasses the night before. Hence his tepid public support from Norwegians Friday.

The Nobel Committee nominated someone members saw as the Prince of Peace -- the same man whom a majority of American voters were wishfully hoping would pull them out of seemingly unending wars (and right the tanking economy, but that's fodder for another column). Instead, President Obama is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and taking much longer than his anti-war base expected he would to pull American troops out of Iraq. Wish I had been watching through a secret webcam when the six Norwegians cried, "Oops!"

In the case of American voters, Bush's disastrous presidency plucked independents and even a few longtime Republicans out of the GOP camp and sent them scurrying to support a Democrat in '08. Legitimately so. Bush won the Freedom Fries war, but left office with the U.S. military stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. economy mired in recession.

In the case of the Norwegians, Europe's dislike of Bush's infamously unilateral proclivities made him one of the most unpopular American presidents among Europeans as well. It was a badge Bush wore with honor. What goes around comes around.

If only the Nobel Committee and the American voting public had dug a bit deeper before they endorsed Obama, they might not have been so surprised when he morphed into an unexpected type of president. The New York Times reported in February 2008 that Obama had a history of stretching his accomplishments and playing to his audience of the moment. It would have been easy to see what was coming if only voters had paid more attention to his record as a twister of facts and prince of prevarication.

The front-page story detailed Obama's appearance before an Iowa audience in December 2007. He claimed credit for passage of anti-nuclear legislation that in fact did not pass the Senate. Not only that, he had watered down his own anti-nuclear amendment to the point of obliteration. That, only after he befriended and took money from the same nuclear energy executives he at first opposed; $227,000 in campaign contributions would make you cozy up with former political opponents, wouldn't it?

"A close look at the path his legislation took tells a very different story. While he initially fought to advance his bill, even holding up a presidential nomination to try to force a hearing on it, Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators. The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks," the Times reported.

No American voter who read this story could possibly have been surprised by his later turnabout on any issue from anti-war, to pro-war, from pro-choice to pro-life appeaser, from anti-lobbyist to employer of lobbyists. It's all right there. It was ignored by voters at their own peril. And now, so it seems, to the peril of the Nobel Laureate Committee, too.

This is not the first time the Nobel Committee has given the Peace Prize to a candidate of expectations. Nor is it the first time it has been awarded someone who used military means to achieve peace: Henry Kissinger's 1973 half-prize (shared with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho) for the Paris Peace Accords -- even though the Vietnam War didn't end for two more years. And Yasser Arafat shared a prize 15 years ago for a Mideast peace that has not yet arrived.

Every time the prize is given to someone whose later record does not comport with the peaceful efforts the committee seeks to award, it lessens the value and prestige of the award. And every time a president disses his base, more Americans lose faith in the political system. Both are travesties that can and should have been averted.
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